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Exterior view of the Gur-e Amir
|Dome height (outer)||30 m?|
|Minaret height||30 m?|
The Gūr-i Amīr or Guri Amir (Uzbek: Amir Temur maqbarasi, Go‘ri Amir, Persian: گورِ امیر), is a mausoleum of the Asian conqueror Tamerlane (also known as Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It occupies an important place in the history of Persian-Mongolian Architecture as the precursor and model for later great Mughal architecture tombs, including Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Timur's Persianised descendants, the ruling Mughal dynasty of North India. It has been heavily restored.
Gur-e Amir is Persian for "Tomb of the King". This architectural complex with its azure dome contains the tombs of Tamerlane, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah and grandsons Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan. Also honoured with a place in the tomb is Timur's teacher Sayyid Baraka.
The earliest part of the complex was built at the end of the 14th century by the orders of Muhammad Sultan. Now only the foundations of the madrasah and khanaka, the entrance portal and a part of one of four minarets remains.
The construction of the mausoleum itself began in 1403 after the sudden death of Muhammad Sultan, Tamerlane's heir apparent and his beloved grandson, for whom it was intended. Timur had built himself a smaller tomb in Shahrisabz near his Ak-Saray palace. However, when Timur died in 1405 on campaign on his military expedition to China, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in, so he was buried here instead. Ulugh Beg, another grandson of Tamerlane, completed the work. During his reign the mausoleum became the family crypt of the Timurid Dynasty.
The entrance portal to the Muhammad Sultan ensemble (see picture) is richly decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics. The decoration of the portal was accomplished by the skilled craftsman (ustad) Muhammad bin Mahmud Isfahani.
Outwardly the Gur-e Amir Mausoleum is a one-cupola building. It is famous for its simplicity of construction and for its solemn monumentality of appearance. It is an octahedral building crowned by an azure fluted dome (see picture). The exterior decoration of the walls consists of the blue, light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical and epigraphic ornaments against a background of terracotta bricks. The dome (diameter - 15 m (49.21 ft), height - 12.5 m (41.01 ft)) is of a bright blue color with deep rosettes and white spots. Heavy ribbed fluting gives an amazing expressiveness to the cupola.
During the reign of Ulugh Beg a doorway (see picture) was made to provide an entrance into the mausoleum.
Inwardly the mausoleum appears as a large, high chamber with deep niches at the sides and diverse decoration. The lower part of the walls covered are by onyx slabs composed as one panel. Each of these slabs is decorated with refined paintings. Above the panel there is a marble stalactite cornice. Large expanses of the walls are decorated with painted plaster; the arches and the internal dome are ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches, gilded and painted (see picture).
The ornate carved headstones in the inner room of the mausoleum merely indicate the location of the actual tombs in a crypt directly underneath the main chamber. Under Ulugh Beg's government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over the grave of Tamerlane (see picture). Formerly this stone had been used at a place of worship in the Chinese emperor's palace, then as the throne of Duwa (a descendant of Genghis Khan) in Chagatay Khanate. Next to Tamerlane's grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and Shah Rukh and also of grandsons - Muhammad Sultan and Ulugh Beg. Tamerlane's spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here.
In 1740, king Nader Shah of the Afsharid Empire tired to carry away Tamerlane's sarcophagus. Nader idolized Timur. He imitated Timur's military prowess and, later in his reign, Timur's cruelty, but in the process of removal the sarcophagus broke in two. This was interpreted as a bad omen. His advisers urged him to leave the stone to its rightful place.
The second time the stone was disturbed was on June 22 1941 when Soviet archaeologists opened the crypt. Interestingly, June 22nd, 1941 was the same day that the Nazi's launched Operation Barbarossa and attacked the Soviet Union. An inscription on the grave threatened "Where I am alive the world would tremble." The anthropologist Mikhail Mikhaylovich Gerasimov was able to reconstruct Tamerlane's facial features from his skull, and it was also confirmed that he was 172 cm in height and would have walked with a pronounced limp. Further historical information about the assassination of Ulugh Beg and the authenticity of the other graves was also confirmed. Timur's skeleton and that of Ulugh Beg, his grandson, were re-interred with full Islamic burial rites in November of 1942.
Some consider the Gur-e Amir, Ruhabad mausoleum and Aksaray mausoleum to be a combined ensemble because of their closeness.
Ruhabad (14th century) is a small mausoleum (see picture) and is said to contain a hair of Prophet Muhammad. The one-story madrasah now accommodates craftsmens' shops. There is a functioning mosque next door to the madrasah. All three combine into one good-looking ensemble (see picture).
The Aksaray mausoleum (15th century), unrestored, is located on a quiet street behind Gur-e Amir (see picture).
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